Corporal punishment [microform]



Title Corporal punishment [microform]: Women's bodies and their eighteenth-century readers
Author(s) Jane Magrath
Date 1998
Publisher University of Alberta, 1997
Place published Ottawa: National Library of Canada, 1998.
Abstract Corporal Punishment' argues that the eighteenth-century female body functioned as a shifting signifier whose often contradictory meanings were determined by numerous intersecting cultural discourses. Although its focus is conventional representation, this dissertation observes that the autobiographical writings of several women--Teresia Constantia Phillips and Mary Leapor, for example--expose the gaps between representation and the lived experiences of the body. It suggests that these gaps mark sites of resistance. The introduction begins with the 1733 murder trial of Sarah Malcolm, who argued that it was her own menstrual blood rather than the blood of the murdered woman that stained her clothing. This chapter suggests that the court misread the blood and that Malcolm hanged both because of and despite her female body. Chapter one argues that, despite changes over the century in attitudes toward the prostitute, her body was consistently represented as always-already-ruined, Phillips' Apology, however, challenges this conventional representation by clearly marking the moment of her ruin and naming her debaucher. Chapter two links debates about female beauty to a number of other cultural concerns--philosophical aesthetics, the opposition between nature and artifice, and the economics of the marriage market. This chapter argues that, under the rubric of beauty, the female body bears the burden of a number of conflicting cultural anxieties. Chapter three focuses on the published letters of Elizabeth Carter, Elizabeth Montagu, and Catherine Talbot. The lives of these women were characterized by their intellectual pursuits and marked by physical illness. This chapter suggests that the shifting representation of their bodies in relation to their minds challenges the conventional, gendered mind-body dualism. Chapter four reads Pope's personal invectives and contemporary satire in general through the lens of eighteenth-century penal practices. It argues that these satiric representations functioned as a kind of corporal punishment, and that they forced women to bear the burden of the body for both genders. This dissertation surveys a rather eclectic group of textual sources--novels, poetry, memoirs, letters, pamphlets, medical treatises--in an attempt to explore a cultural rather than genre-specific representation of eighteenth-century women's bodies.

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